Master of Complex Systems

The information on this page applies to future students. Current students should refer to their faculty handbooks for course information.

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This degree will provide you with the expertise to model, analyse and design resilient technological, socio-economic and socio-ecological systems as well as develop strategies for crisis forecasting and management.


Smart cities, megaprojects, power and data grids, ecosystems, communication and transport networks are all complex systems. They generate rich interactions among components with interdependencies across systems. This interdependent behaviour creates challenges for designing and managing complex systems.

Complex systems are composed of large numbers of diverse interacting parts, making them susceptible to unexpected, large-scale, and apparently uncontrollable behaviours.

Small changes can generate large, amplified effects. For example, a single malfunction in a local substation can lead to cascading state-wide electricity grid failures, or the emergence of a new pathogen in a remote village can give rise to a devastating global epidemic.

The Master of Complex Systems will provide you with the expertise to model, analyse and design resilient technological, socio-economic and socio-ecological systems as well as develop strategies for crisis forecasting and management.

It will develop your skills in quantitative modelling and computational simulation of system dynamics, complementing your existing skills in engineering, computer science, information technology, physics, mathematics, health, biology or business.

As an expert in complex systems, you could pursue a career in major multinational research and development companies, government and crisis management agencies, health, construction or transport organisations.
These unique skills will enable you to operate across discipline boundaries, providing key input and insights to help solve complex global challenges.

You have the flexibility to tailor your learning to your professional interests with the choice of four specialisations:

  • Engineering
  • Biosecurity
  • Ecology
  • Transport


You will undertake an industry-based capstone project. A research pathway is also available.

Course outline

Candidates for the Master of Complex Systems complete 96 credit points, consisting of:

• 24 credit points of foundational core units of study

• 18 credit points of other core units of study:

• At least 18 credit points of core Complex Systems units of study

• A 12 unit capstone experience

• A maximum of 24 credit points of elective units of study.

Units of study information for this degree

Embedded courses

Further course information

Progression rules

The faculty will monitor students for satisfactory progress towards the completion of their award course. In addition to the common triggers used to identify students not meeting academic progression requirements (as defined by the Progression requirements of the Coursework Rule), students must pass any unit of study identified in the course resolutions as being critical to progression through the course.

Capstone experience

The course content of the MCXS will converge to two project units: a Capstone industry linked project and a research pathway project, focussed on modelling a complex problem or delivering a novel solution. Projects could be directly tied to candidates' area of specialisation (major), or to their vocational objectives or interests. Candidates with expertise in a specific industry sector may be invited to partner with relevant team projects.

Access to a registry of project opportunities, resources, consultants, co-supervisors will be provided. The student will be required to demonstrate the desired learning outcome of integrating cross-disciplinary contexts of Complex Systems in this task. This learning requirement will provide a strong base for future research within the Complex Systems network or work opportunities in the relevant industry upon completion of the MCXS program.

Course outcomes and further study

Graduate opportunities

Graduates of this program will be suitable for careers in major multi-national research and development companies, government and crisis management agencies, and large health, construction and transport organisations, or continue on an academic research pathway. MCXS graduates will operate across discipline boundaries, in environments outside the experience of most professionals, providing key modelling input and insights to resolution of complex challenges across the globe.

Further study

The University of Sydney is a research intensive institution with a strong track record of technology transfer and commercialisation. The Complex Systems Research Group has a strong focus on theory and quantitative methods covering the areas of guided self-organisation, large-scale complex networks and adaptive systems. This research leverages our expertise in engineering and computational sciences and involves collaborations across physics, mathematics, biology and social sciences. Research outcomes have an impact on diverse areas such as disaster and emergency management, large-scale epidemic modelling, organisational and social risk management, financial crisis forecasting, biosecurity, sustainable ecosystems, as well as the stability of power grids, communication and transport systems. If you would like to be part of the complex systems research community at the University of Sydney, you may consider applying for admission to a research degree. Students completing a research degree undertake supervised research and submit a written thesis at the completion of their studies in the degree of Master of Philosophy or Doctor of Philosophy.

Other study options

Individual units of study within the course may be undertaken by suitably qualified candidates who do not wish to complete an award course. Non-award candidates are students of the University, consequently on satisfactory completion of unit of study requirements, candidates receive an academic transcript showing the details of the unit or units of study undertaken, with results and grades. Subject to the approval of the dean and individual course resolutions, completed non-award study may be credited to an award course.

Units of study may also be undertaken cross-institutionally by students, subject to the approval of the dean. Cross-institutional candidates are enrolled in a postgraduate award course at another university and have approval from their home institution to complete a unit or units of study at Sydney, to be credited toward their degree. Please contact the faculty about non-award and cross-institutional study.

Admission

Admission requirements

Admission to the Master of Complex Systems requires a pass in a bachelor’s degree with a credit average in a quantitative discipline (described below) or an honours bachelor’s degree, from the University of Sydney, or qualifications deemed by the faculty to be equivalent; or a minimum of an honours bachelor’s degree, from the University of Sydney, or qualifications deemed by the faculty to be equivalent; or completion of the requirements of the embedded graduate diploma in Complex Systems at a credit average, or qualifications deemed by the faculty to be equivalent.

Other students with a high level of relevant achievement may be admitted provided the Associate Dean is satisfied they have achieved learning outcomes equivalent to (a) a level 7 award in a Quantitative discipline with at least a credit average, or (b) a level 8 award.

Definition: A Quantitative discipline includes Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology, Mathematics, Statistics, Transport, Physics, Business, Finance or other disciplines that are deemed Quantitative by the Associate Dean. As a guideline, the curriculum of a Quantitative discipline should include a minimum of 12 credit points of mathematics or statistics at the tertiary level.

Reduced Volume Learning
The course is designed to complement the candidates’ background, proficiencies and aims. A matching equivalent volume of learning is specified throughout the four foundational units, which can be waived for The University of Sydney’s undergraduates with relevant qualifications (AQF Level 8 or AQF Level 7 in quantitative cognate disciplines of Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Business, and Health Science) or equivalent qualifications, resulting in the Reduced Volume of Learning (RVL).

How to apply

Domestic students

How to apply

Applications are made directly to the University via the University’s online application portal. When you are ready to apply, select the ‘Apply Now’ button on the right hand side of this course page. For more information you can visit our How to Apply page.

International students

How to apply

Applications are made directly to the University via the University’s online application portal. When you are ready to apply, select the ‘Apply Now’ button on the right hand side of this course page. For more information you can visit our How to Apply page.

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